A woman says a bouncer at a Havelock North bar told her to go home and cover up her moko with makeup.
Atawhai Tuki and her partner went out to Diva Bar and Bistro on Saturday night, but were stopped by a security guard who told them facial tattoos were banned at the establishment.
Both Tuki and her partner wear tā moko which, she tried to explain, are important signifiers of their Māori heritage. But the bouncer was unconvinced their facial markings were any different to conventional face tattoos.
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He then suggested that Tuki return home and cover up her moko with Thin Lizzy (a popular bronzing face powder), she told TVNZ.
"That just took me to another level. He quite happily said it, and I just looked at him."
Tuki left the bar in disgust, and later posted about her experience on Facebook. She received hundreds of messages of support - including one from the owner of Diva Bar, asking her and her partner to come in to talk about what had happened.
When the couple did meet with the bar owners (who only recently took over the establishment) they found them apologetic and ready to learn.
"I could see in them that they were so embarrassed, which I understand, they should have been," Tuki said in a Facebook Live. "But they weren't the person in question… it's not about the bar itself, it's a learning thing."
She says the owners have asked them to do some professional development with Diva staff and "school them up on tikanga and customs".
Tuki says she respects bars wanting to keep out gang members with facial tattoos who "rock up and think they own the place", but New Zealand establishments need to recognise tā moko as part of the culture.
"If you're a bar owner or a restaurant owner, check your policies when it comes to facial tattoos," she said in a Facebook Live. "Let's start spreading it around, whanau. Make it common."
Newshub has approached Diva Bar for comment.
Moko kauae has seen a surge in popularity after decades of suppression through legislation and social pressure for Māori to assimilate to European culture. The traditional tattoo is seen as an important visual affirmation of a person's whānau and whakapapa.